If you think that all there is to Las Vegas is gambling, partying, and expensive shows, then you might want to check yourself. Sure, those are the primary reasons anyone ever goes to Sin City but there are plenty of hidden gems and little-known scenes that you wouldn’t think to seek out unless you asked a local. From outdoor adventures in incredible desert landscapes to a place where you can make a buck without having to spend a penny, there are secrets in Las Vegas just waiting for you to find them.
A Hidden Art Exhibit
There’s a secret art exhibition in a place you’d least expect. At the Louis Vuitton store in Las Vegas City Center, people who make reservations can visit Akhob, an art installation that immerses you in a world of color. Artist James Turrell’s permanent exhibition consists of two chambers that slowly change colors before your eyes.
Though you must make an appointment to see the exhibit, admission is free. You simply need to tell the Louis Vuitton employees why you’re there and you’ll be escorted to a secret floor where the experience awaits you.
See What The Bootleggers Saw
Las Vegas is in close proximity to some great outdoor adventures that you wouldn’t expect. Go on a zip-lining tour in Bootleg Canyon, named after the prohibition-era bootleggers who ran their contraband through the canyon. Today, you can fly over this area and see majestic views of the desert.
Bootleg Canyon is just 30 minutes off the Strip and is also a great place abundant with hiking and mountain biking trails. One of the best times to go is at dawn before that desert heat kicks in. Watching the sun rise over the valley is a breathtaking experience.
Visit The Valley Of Fire
Scenic views are abundant and just a short drive away from the hustle and bustle of the Las Vegas Strip. One place that locals love to frequent for this very reason is the Valley of Fire. Just a short, 40-minute drive outside of Vegas will lead you to amazing red rock and sandstone formations in a plethora of fiery reds, purples, and whites.
Dedicated in 1935, the Valley of Fire is the oldest Nevada State Park and spans approximately 35,000 acres. People come here not only for the incredible views but also as a place for reflection and spirituality.
Lose All Your Money To A Different Machine
Many people are drawn to the flashing lights and alarming sounds of slot machines but are not pleased when the slots eat all their money up. Instead of wasting that money at a slot machine for no reason, you could at least spend that money while having some real, wholesome fun at the Pinball Hall of Fame.
Just a short drive off the strip, this 10,000-square foot pinball museum is home to the world’s largest pinball collection with machines dating back to the 1950’s! You can play to your heart’s content here and a good portion of the proceeds goes to charity.
See The Seven Magic Mountains
Now a popular site along I-15 on the way to Las Vegas, the Seven Magic Mountains are another place to go if you’re looking for landscapes and artistic fulfillment. Seven brightly-colored stone sculptures stand in the middle of the desert, 20 minutes away from the Strip.
Varying in size with some sections up to 30 feet high, this art installation by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone is a popular stop among curious road trippers and art aficionados alike. Seven Magic Mountains was only supposed to go up temporarily but has received a permit to remain through 2021.
Laugh And Be Amazed At Absinthe
Ask locals which show you should watch in Vegas and they would probably tell you to see Absinthe at Caesar’s Palace. In what The New York Times calls “Cirque du Soleil as channeled through The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” this raunchy, 18-and-older show has had tourists and locals alike laughing and wanting to return.
The circus-style show combines incredibl acts with adult humor in a tent-shaped venue that brings you close to your neighbors. There are almost too many great reviews about this show that you might as well see what all the hype is about.
See The Signs In Their Second Lives
Las Vegas is known for attracting tourists with its bright lights and flashy neon signs. But the Strip’s most distinct signage from Vegas’s golden age, including that of the Golden Nugget and Aladdin Casino, has long been lost to modernization. Despite this, these signs and many others are still around at the Neon Boneyard.
Since 1996, the non-profit Neon Museum has been collecting, preserving, and exhibiting some of the most iconic signs that used to shine brightly in Las Vegas’s past. Visitors can go on self-guided or hour-long tours through more than 150 decommissioned, non-restored signs.
Get A Bird’s-Eye View
This might not be something locals do all the time but even they know some of the best views can only be seen from the sky. That’s why Maverick Helicopter’s Dream Catcher Sunset Tour is another great secret.
Take a helicopter tour to not only see the Strip with a birds-eye view, but also see the amazing Valley of Fire, post-volcanic Fortification Hill, the Hoover Dam, and even the Grand Canyon! This tour takes you across Nevada and Arizona in just four unforgettable hours. The pilot will even let you select your own playlist for the ride!
A Driving Range On The Strip
Sometimes fresh air is all you need but you wouldn’t think that you could find a place to get it along the Strip. Locals know exactly where to go and that’s Topgolf Las Vegas at the MGM Grand.
This four-level sporting and entertainment complex has something for everyone in the family. What people really love to do here is hit the driving range that has open views of Las Vegas. There are also numerous HDTV’s that allow you to catch the latest game and there’s even a swimming pool for those who just want to chill.
Eat And Shop In Shipping Containers
Locals obviously know to avoid the Strip, so they go to the Downtown Container Park instead. This family-friendly attraction is a sight for the eyes in which 31 shipping containers are home to boutique shopping and unique eats.
Here you can find a cigar shop, nail salon, BBQ place, candy store, and more. There’s truly something for everyone here. There are even shows at the park’s Catalyst Dome. Even though it’s family friendly, adults can still come out to play after 9 p.m. when the Container Park is only open to people who are 21 and older.
Soak In Nature At Red Rock Canyon
Locals aren’t spending any time in the casinos because they’re too busy enjoying the amazing gifts of Mother Nature in their own backyard. Red Rock Canyon and Mt. Charleston are popular hiking destinations for locals who love the outdoors.
Whether you’re hiking the beautiful trails of this national conservation park or climbing its ancient rocks, you’ll quickly forget you’re just a stone’s throw away from the tourist trap of the Strip. If walking isn’t really your thing, you can still soak in Nevada’s natural beauty on a one-way 13-mile scenic drive through the park.
Check Out Chinatown
Most major cities have their very own Chinatown and Las Vegas is no exception. Just a 10-minute drive away from the Strip, you will find a Chinatown neighborhood which is home to some of the best eats in all of Las Vegas at probably half the price for what you’d pay at a tourist trap – and it’d likely taste better too!
While it is called Chinatown, you’ll find a variety of Asian cuisines to choose from such as Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino, and even Hawaiian. Chinatown is also home to Golden Tiki, a local hotspot for a great cocktail and a good time.
Come As Your Favorite Character
If you’re less into clubbing and more into cosplay, Las Vegas still has a place for you to wet your whistle and let loose. The Millenium Fandom Bar is located in between the Strip and Downtown Las Vegas.
Whether you’re a Trekkie or you’re obsessed with Alice in Wonderland, it really doesn’t matter since people from all fandoms are welcome here. Visitors can grab a drink and watch whatever movie or TV show is playing that night. You can even get married here with a cosplayed minister of your own choosing! Costumes not required, but recommended.
See A Show And Support A Cause
Las Vegas is known for its shows by Cirque du Soliel, magicians, and whatever artist decides to have a residency on the Strip. But one show that deserves more attention than any of them is Mondays Dark.
Held just twice a month on Mondays, when shows on the Strip go “dark,” Mondays Dark is hosted by performer Mark Shunock. No two shows are the same as he gathers Hollywood stars, athletes, musical acts, and celebrity chefs with the goal of raising $10,000 for charity in their 90-minute variety show. Mondays Dark has partnered with over 30 local charities and so far has raised over $500,000.
Make Quick Cash Instead Of Gambling It
You wouldn’t think that you could get paid for simply giving your opinion but in Vegas, there’s actually a place for that! At Test America in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, you’re invited to test new products, watch new shows or trailers, and take surveys for some quick cash if you have some time to kill.
After you answer questions about what you tested out, you’ll be handed a check for a few bucks! It’s literally just a few dollars you’ll be making, but it’s at least better than wasting that amount on a slot machine.
Take A Time Machine To The Mobster Days
Las Vegas was a prime location for Mob activity back in the city’s golden era. Though it’s not necessarily prevalent today in the way that it was back then, you can still imagine what Vegas was like in the days of Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel at The Mob Museum.
Located just a few blocks away from Fremont Street in Las Vegas’s former federal courthouse, The Mob Museum gives visitors a captivating exposé on America’s mob history not only in Vegas but other major gangster hubs throughout the country. They even have the brick wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre on display!
Lesser-Known Pockets Of The Strip
No local would recommend hanging out too much on the Strip, but for tourists who are brand new to Las Vegas, it’s understandable. One place you could get a taste of the Strip atmosphere while avoiding most of the crowds is the LINQ Promenade.
Located in the middle of the Strip between Flamingo Las Vegas and the newer LINQ Hotel & Casino is a marketplace that has over 40 shops and restaurants. It all sits at the foot of the LINQ’s High Roller 550-foot observation wheel. This place has attractions, shopping, and dining all wrapped into one.
Local Hangouts Close To The Action
When it comes to a great night with good food and drinks, Vegas locals know they’re lucky to have so many options. Even they can’t deny that all the action is closer to the city center, but you might find them off the beaten path at bars and restaurants around downtown that tourists wouldn’t even think to go.
Park on Fremont is one such example that hosts live music acts in an outdoor patio area that makes you feel like you’re not even in Vegas. Not far from that location is Commonwealth that has a rooftop bar and a speakeasy that’s so secretive they don’t allow phones.
Discover Las Vegas Wines
You wouldn’t think to find a winery in the middle of the desert but lo and behold, there are a handful around Las Vegas. The Pahrump Valley Winery and Sanders Family Winery have been bringing great wines and sophistication to the desert since the early 2000s. They may be an hour’s drive from the Strip, but it’s well worth the trip for some.
The newer Vegas Valley Winery is only 20 minutes away. Certainly, these wineries are no Napa Valley, but they are a great escape for winos and those who want to enjoy drinking in a more peaceful setting.
Don’t Forget To Recharge
Even locals will admit that some of the best places to pamper yourself are at spas located on the Strip. Wellness isn’t typically what you’d think of when it comes to Las Vegas but after all that partying, drinking, and gaming, you’d definitely want time to reset and refresh.
The spa at the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas or the Qua Baths & Spa at Caesar’s Palace have some of the most luxurious experiences around – at a price, of course. But one local favorite is Imperial Spa, which is a Korean-style spa that won’t break the bank!